Covid-19 Effects on Ugandan NGO’s operations and financial capabilities

Uganda registered its first case of COVID-19 on 21 March 2020 and, as of 29 April, had registered 79 cases.

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Uganda has responded rapidly, implementing a number of measures and developing national guidelines to prevent and respond to the spread of COVID-19. Coordination has been instituted with the appointment of an Incident Commander, Incident Management Teams, and subcommittees. Government and partners are implementing public health preparedness and response activities along eight core pillars: coordination and leadership; surveillance, laboratory support and points of entry; risk communication, social mobilization and community engagement; case management, infection prevention, and control; ICT and innovation; WASH; mental health and psychosocial support; and logistics.

Also, numbers of vulnerability reduction and containment measures to curtail transmission of COVID 19 have been implemented. Some of the measures have included: Closure of schools and other high concentration points; Freeze of public and private transport; Outlawing all mass gathering events, including for worship; overnight curfew; Closure of international airport and ground crossing points for passengers; and A nationwide temporary lockdown.

In compliance with the government COVID-19 preventive measures, most NGOs have closed offices with many of them left with no funding for projects, and some Kampala based larger NGOs are still managing the project on a restricted budget. This situation comes with serious financial and operational problems for NGOs during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. With many NGOs at the risk of losing their funding sources and grants because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ugandan NGOs are likely to lose 85% of their income as many of them have run short of money and thus they have stopped operations. Those who are active continued to sensitize communities on government preventive measures and behavior change against COVID 19, while others are providing material and financial support to meet different needs including to the communities whose incomes have largely been disrupted by the lockdown such as women who work for others to earn food, motorcyclists, barbers among others.

For example, some NGOs have organized different radio and TV programs and awareness outreaches, and others are using social media to engage their communities to cope up with the lockdown conditions and respect other related preventives measures.

For example, the American Jewish World Services is funding the National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) works with the Ugandan public health officials, rededicating the radio station to broadcast crucial information that will keep communities safe. AJWS has provided NAPE with emergency COVID-19 response Fund to provide protective equipment and computers, modems and Internet data packages to run their programs remotely, guaranteeing the flow of life-saving information continues during this difficult lockdown period.NAPE Community Green Radio Station, which has become a highly trusted information source for local people. And now, in a time when misinformation about COVID-19 is running rampant in the country, NAPE’s radio station has become a pivotal platform to educate rural Ugandan families about the virus and how to protect themselves. Radio and printed communications remain critical platforms for people in rural communities—often with little or no access to the Internet—to understand what is happening in their villages, regions, countries, and the world. But the AJWS grant to NAPE is helping NAPE spread this crucial information. To further enable this lifesaving dissemination strategy in Uganda

AJWS is also supporting the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC), an organization that strengthens local journalism on human rights issues, to disseminate print and radio stories about how the virus spreads and how to stop it.

Despite this positive trend among national and local NGOs, these efforts are still fragmented and are organizationally based. There are no joint and coordinated efforts among local NGOs to efficiently support the government. In addition, there is no real-time data about their support and very difficult to quantify the NGOs ‘contribution during this time.

COVID 19 has affected the operations of local NGOs at the national level and at the community level. While the current pandemic affected the local NGOs’ funding and human capital, it has equally affected the lives of the local NGOs‘ beneficiaries. The unprepared disrupt of field activities has significantly affected the beneficiaries who were not prepared ahead of the time about the possible suspension of program activities.

The scarcity of resources is one other way how this COVID has impacted my organization. The fact that the outbreak became serious at the beginning of the year 2020 which is also a period where activists organizations are busy with resource mobilization for their new programs and projects of the year, this posed a great challenge to our organization as many of our prospective donors are found in countries which are most hit by the Covid-19 disease and forced many out of their offices making it uneasy for us to have their attention and receiving funds from them hence impacting on our works negatively too.

An interviews with Ronny, the executive director of a local based NGO in Nebbi district

Much as my organization work is highly important and needed within the communities of our operations, we can no longer be able to reach those communities with our services due to different reasons like a lockdown which doesn’t permit any movements with unauthorized vehicles and also bans on social gatherings of more than five people in communities.

Ronny, the executive director of Nebbi based local NGO impacted by COVID-19 situation

Even National and local NGOs that have submitted proposals before the COVID 19 outbreaks, some donors are hesitant to provide them with positive feedback as they are watching the spread of the COVID and predicting how it will affect future development. For example, some donor agencies are also financed by their governments, since the focus shifted to deal with the emergence of COVID 19, the share allocated by these governments into funding agencies is likely to diminish, which in turn affects national and local NGOs who receive funds from these external donors. This lack of new funding opportunities will affect National and local NGOs to meet their mission and achievement of impact in communities they are serving.

Ugandan NGOs, are largely donor-dependent and have no other relevant sources of funding for their interventions. Although there is numerous donor community, the numbers of NGO’s which need funding and the standards of the project designs that are needed by donors do not actually yield into sustainable funding to potential NGO’s.

Also, there are some NGOs that have a business, but they have been disrupted by the lockdown and could not have the time to implement their business. NGOs that own business as a solution to self-financing are also facing challenges, because the lockdown has affected their business, and thus they could not generate income to sustain their NGO activities. There are possibilities NGOs will be affected more than this because of the lack of internal funds to meet NGOs’ direct costs such as salaries, rent, maintenance fees among others.

Photo credit: Police Field Force Unit officers wear facemasks to protect themselves against the spread of coronavirus during an operation to enforce President Museveni’s directives on March 26, 2020. PHOTO BY ALEX ESAGALA

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